The Strange Voyage of the Raconteur

by J. C. Mills
244 pages,
ISBN: 1552637190

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A Review of: The Strange Voyage of the Raconteur
by M. Wayne Cunningham

On the fateful June morning, when teenaged Joe Allenby helps to dock the damaged sailboat, Raconteur, at the marina in his Great Lakes home town, he has no notion of the adventures ahead of him. But Toronto artist-author, J. C. Mills, a noted raconteur herself, clearly does, and her engaging novel about Joe and the events that take place, The Strange Voyage of the Raconteur, is a well-crafted mix of seafarers' myths, sailing misfortunes and adolescent fears and hopes. It's a story just begging to be read.
Joe tells us that since the age of 13 he has been haunting the marina, making a mild-mannered nuisance of himself with the sailboat owners, absorbing all he can about sailing, and learning that the dock master, Old Jake, is even more of a pussycat than Merlin, his aging tomcat. Joe himself reveals that he is "a gangly kid about to turn seventeen," and staying as far away from home and his alcoholic father as he can. The most excitement he has had so far has occurred because of the occasional run-in with his prissy French teacher, in the school's gymnasium with his fencing foils, and at the Olympia Diner where he'd like to get a job to be closer to the beautiful and brainy, Helen Antonopoulos, the owner's daughter and one of his classmates. But the humdrum of his life ceases the moment he meets Zen, the fifty-something, hippie-like skipper of the Raconteur and an acknowledged raconteur in his own right.
Despite Joe's initial misgivings about Zen, he's soon caught in the web of the skipper's yarns. He's intrigued by Zen's references to Pitcairn Island and the Bounty, to the Olmecs and Mayans, to the Flood recorded in various literatures, and to the thorn bush that grew from Joseph of Arimathea's staff. But he's most affected by the tales Zen tells about the Holy Grail and its legendary ties to the Knights Templar, the Zeno brothers and their Narrative, and Prince Henry Sinclair and his voyage to Oak Island in Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia-legends which become launching pads for J. C. Mills's subplots about a dynasty of Zenos protecting the Grail from evil-doers and natural disasters throughout the centuries. Eventually a connection is established to Zen and to Old Jake too in his houseboat, The Lady of the Lake, and even, as it turns out, to an unbelieving, flabbergasted Joe and his long-suffering mom.
But before Joe can learn of his ties to Zen, Jake and others in his family, he must overcome a series of misfortunes on his maiden voyage aboard the Raconteur. There is the sudden, mysterious fog, the accident that causes Zen to fall unconscious, and a crazed stranger who attempts to board the boat and claim it as his own. But just as the earlier heroes in Zen's (Read J. C. Mills's) stories survived their trials and faced up to evil, Joe overcomes his. With Zen's myths entrenched in his head and his heart, his misgivings dispelled, and his misfortunes soundly defeated, Joe is prepared to accept the destiny he refers to in the prologue and epilogue to his fascinating story. Read it. You'll be thoroughly entertained by a number of raconteurs.

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